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Venerable fringe poet Jem Rolls pens affectionate ode to city's theatre fest

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/7/2013 (1493 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jem Rolls, the bard of the fringe circuit, penned an ode to the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in 2005 and has just completed a new version that pays tribute to the welcoming embrace the city has for all things fringe.

"At the Toronto Fringe I was just speaking to Mike Delamont, who is first-timing Winnipeg with God Is A Scottish Drag Queen," says Rolls. "He's done marvellously at a number of fringes, and is clearly going to do extremely well here. Yet the lucky guy didn't seem to quite grasp what a specially great time awaits him here. Why should he? It's so unexpected."

Poet Jem Rolls will be performing at The Fringe Festival.


Poet Jem Rolls will be performing at The Fringe Festival.

Here is Rolls' latest paean to the 'Peg:


In Xanada, did FringeGang

many pleasure domes erect


I met a man from an antique land, who said

"I dreamt of an artist who'd been good

I dreamt of an artist who'd been so very, very good

His very best Karma came to visit

And whisked him away to Artists' Heaven,

In the vast flat land, many days' ride beyond the inland seas

Beyond the land of the Screaming Bald Eagles

Where the red meets the muddy, and

Following the Ides of Julian, the sun shines

And freshening faces rise from far and near

As the earth blooms with streams of human colour

Who throng and teem and gleefully home in, unerring

Upon the fabled Zone of TransPortage


Where the envigoured hordes race to see shows by savage red clowns

To see fools helter-skelter their innermost ventricles

To watch death and the old maiden joyride the dark fantastic

To hear unbodied queens harangue their Horrible Henries

While selves are exchanged for new

And armour and shackles are thrown off

And lost youth is refound

And some speak in a strange tongue, unknown further south,

Called iRoh-knee, or Saht-iya


Ahhh yes, come summer, that Sceptered Isle in the boundless green ocean

Beyond the Big Rock Candy Mountain,

Where houses are packed and rafters are raised,

And the air is filled with gasps and laughter

Where wisdom and clowning are received with equal joy

Where strange accents are warmly welcome

Where shows ask fewer coin than anywhere else

Where, no matter how truly new and wild and bold the shows

How low or high the art, how tragic or comedic the tales

Audiences, young and old, yes young and old

Want to come, and will give for the seeing


Ahhh yes, ahhh bliss, sweet innocent morning again

Where new tales will roll bodies in the aisles

Yet live only 3,000 instants, and never be heard from ever again

Where poets fill every seat in but five minutes ...

Or does that sound too absurd, like I've gone too far

Yet I bear not false witness

For I speak here of the Days of Fring

In the City of the iPegs

And they do things most different there

For poets do sell out places called hundred seaters in five minutes


But, I hear you ask, how can this be?

Why doesn't every artist journey to this performer's paradise?

Is it far off, this City of the iPegs?

Verily, yes, 'tis far away, this great performers' Pow Wow

Tis way beyond even the Far Go of the New Roman Empire

South of the all water to come, in the northland, Xanada,

(Lorded over by an otherworldly Blue Meanie called Har-Har-Har...

A drilling grey eminence no outsider can ever name)


'Tis a flat land, stretching to high wonders

Where artists need no coin for lodging

Where the VeryFriendly People are even Friendlier

Where delights are undisneyed

And unpossible yarns are spun

Through geriatric wards and Atlantic depths

New York chat-rooms and uptown ice-rinks

Where long-lost Wobblies lead myopic hearts

Across Rosedale Studio, down Saigon alley

To flee Minnesotan prison for Oodnadatta's bush

Where cross-dressing Caledonian pipers and six-string Floridans

Serenade buffooning Hitchcocks, Austens and Poes

Across Norman beach and African veldt

Where grown men giggle themselves beyond the silly

And the parties reach far into the enfolding shroud of night


But alas, it seems iPeg City,

The happiest dappiest lalaland of blithest July

This diamond of a bakers' dozen bakers' dozen faces

Is not a nirvana eternal

For indeed, it shines bright but twelve days

For, like Brigadoon, it is not always there

And at many times this land is a cold dark place

Where the hatless perish like leaves in the fire

And the forlorn can be found as wraiths wandering the icy wastes

Mourning the ineffable glories of sweetest summer

When, like a mirage from the grassy plains

The circus wagon-train of earthly delights did appear

And the thousands they did flock, by the ten

And much merriment was had

And much laughter was heard

And much was learnt

And the spirits, stronger, did steel themselves for winter

For no time lasts forever, and the wagon train must move on

To other fields and other faces, other trials and other triumphs


Some say it leaps on, from concrete atoll to concrete atoll

Across the Sea of Green

Others that it snakes on to the City of the Sasks

Yet others say it doesn't exist

That our halcyon Fringtime in the City of the iPegs

Sensed in 12 fast-passing days of unpossible figments

Is but an intense dream born of the intense longing

Of thousands in their most vivid and fervent imaginings

And yet we, we happy many,

We who were there

We who saw and felt and gasped and cried and laughed

We who danced and we who watched

We know


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Updated on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 6:59 AM CDT: Replaces photo, changes headline

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